Tregolwyn Book Reviews

Dark Birthright

Home
Science fiction and fantasy reading
Photo Album
Featured Publishers
How to use this site
Index of Authors and Titles
Reviews: Fiction
Reviews: Non-Fiction
Reviews: Poetry
Our Reviewers
Forthcoming
Contact Us
Read an extract
Archive
Interview with CORNELIA GOLNA
SPECIAL FEATURE: Clare Potter comments...
Success Stories

by Jeanne Treat

darkbirthright.jpg

ISBN 0 9721674 8 X
Treat Enterprises, 2006
448 pp, paperback
Retail price $18

Open Book

Review by Nan Seal

Buy this book from Amazon

Fantastic! Lucky me to be picked to review this book. In summation it’s an adult equivalent of the Harry Potter series but I must qualify that with one disclaimer: I’ve never read a Harry Potter book. Besides, reviewers don’t get off that lightly even if they have, and so to the specifics.

The book’s dynamic cover shows lightning over a field of ancient ceremonial stones. Superimposed are symbols currently fueling the debate among historians of the influence of "Shriners" (Masons of the Temple of Scottish Rites or some such) on US history. Specifically the emblems are also incorporated into the US one-dollar bill, the eye and the obelisk or sword shape. I predict this to be a good omen for the book’s sales. Throughout the text are excellent visual sketches of the imaginary characters as interpreted by Jane Starr-Weils. Current photos of the sites mentioned grant authenticity to the text.

The story takes place in 17th century Scotland with abundant action, including sex and violence, for the price. As Ayn Rand wrote, a writer should give the reader their money’s worth if free enterprise in the publishing world is to flourish and Jeanne Treat emphatically does just that. The plot, rich in paranormal powers and mysticism, twists and turns with swiftness and agility equal to the action of the Celtic sword that plays a defining role in the story. The characters are well and truly drawn. Many would be writers if only they could create an evil character as truly as this author did. Finding good in sometimes bad people and the reverse is common but pure evil is more complex, at least in current American writing. Perhaps this is a result of our heterogeneity. Jeanne Treat, in this her first novel, owns villain characterization in my opinion. The history of the period, the daily life of the people from the highest noble to the lowest peasant and the science of the primitive healing arts were obviously thoroughly researched. Life in individual families as well as local communities was masterfully captured. The author depicted the deep love, scalding competitiveness, pride, loyalty and vengefulness involved in such relationships quite realistically.

I am thankful that the sex and violence were not hybridized. I, so far, have found violent sex to be an intolerable combination. As noted in my previous reviews I am no voyeur when it comes to sex. This writer handles the sex with a beauty that is both artful and appropriate. I am even less appreciative of violence particularly when handled as realistically as in this story. Yet that is one place where the written word as art form is far superior to theater and video. The performing art viewer is forced to take violence or leave it in one gulp or lose the story line. A reader can put the book down and come back to it when it becomes too graphic, taking it in more tolerable bits. Believe me, with this writer, you will come back.

Description is both a delightful strength and the only weakness of the author. Occasionally she breaks one of the written word’s commandments. If not the first commandment, then it should be: Do not insult the intelligence of your reader with repetition. Even if, PERHAPS, it emphasizes the character of one of the main figures? I found the first description of the coast of Scotland and the tactile pleasure of heather and flowers in the field wonderful. I question that it required repetition particularly as it noticeably slowed the progress to the second phase of the plot. Later, detailed repetition of an action merely to inform a character in the novel is not defendable.

The reader should be prepared for false endings. Perhaps this is due to the author’s enthusiasm but it is more a welcome bonus for the reader. Be prepared to be introduced to alternative ancient religions, the latter particularly in the first part of the novel. Since this "new" theology is so in-line with the current versions of such theological questions as the "gender" of God, the cycles of life, etc., I only mention it because traditional fundamentalists are a part of the American book market. Perhaps they need the challenge but, as with Harry Potter, they may choose to avoid it. What a loss!

Magnificent human creativity!